Desi Di relaunches in Chennai at Poes Garden and we are head over heels about their new menu!

Look out for their apple jalebis and jamun cocktails!
Dosa waffles with pepper chicken masala, anyone?
Dosa waffles with pepper chicken masala, anyone?

It has been a year since Desi Di closed down their first restaurant in Ayanavaram. While a lot has changed in the last 12 months (including Chef Aaron Coutinho who shaved off his signature beard) it is perhaps his menu, that underwent the biggest change. “We now have 75 new dishes, with most of our signature dishes from the previous location remaining as they were,” says the chef as we are shown to our seats. The newly relaunched Desi Di is owned by J Suresh Paul, and has a spanking new 3,200 sq feet location in Poes Garden. The signboard outside resembles those that you can find on a highway in North India, flickering and flashing the words" ‘Welcum turist we spik ingleesh.’

Chef Aaron Countinho
Chef Aaron Countinho

Jamming for jamun
In the last few years, the chef has been weaving in and out of fishing hamlets like Kasimedu, and even Sunday vegetable markets at Pallavaram, where he goes looking for fresh produce. “Our ethos now strongly veers towards fresh juices and the use of local ingredients, replacing sugar syrups and aerated drinks,” he points out.  We dive straight into the new menu, with a refreshing bright purple Litchi Jamuna, a seasonal blend of jambul and litchi. “The idea is not to completely blend it together, and just keep chunks of jamun in it. The process is painful, but worth the effort,” says Aaron, as he brings us corn two ways, and the mutton boti plate. We give the corn a miss, and go straight for the boti plate which comes with a rich turnip puree (a must-have!), fluffy naan and an onion relish. While the boti alone is very rich and heavy, wrapping them together into a burrito brings together all the flavours, including the vinegar from the relish.

<em>Nattu Kozhi Afgani</em>
Nattu Kozhi Afgani
<em>Tawa fried Chappal fish</em>
Tawa fried Chappal fish

Old wine, new bottle
Next on the table is tava fried Chappal fish, a local fish that is sourced from Koyambedu. The fish has a hard exterior, and needs skillful hands to fillet it, so Aaron gets to lead the charge on that. “The fish is cooked in a paste of coriander and mustard masala, and fried in a banana leaf. It’s a seasonal fish, so it won’t be there all year long.” While it was the famous Kadaknath chicken that ruled the roost on his previous menu, this dish will now be just a special. 

<em>Green apple jalebi paired with rabdi</em>
Green apple jalebi paired with rabdi

However, the chef does have a grilled country chicken that is made in mild Chettinad flavours, with just the right amount of char.  This is followed by a pepper chicken masala, which blends South and North flavours. While the pepper brings in a South Indian flavour, the North is represented in the dish with a nut, onion and tomato base. “We serve an amazing dosa waffle along with this, which is made by adding culture into the batter every day,” explains Aaron, who is quite generous with the amount of ghee that goes into the waffle. For dessert, we are treated with a sinful apple jalebi, dripping with honey that has been sourced from a bee farm on the borders of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The tartness from the green apple, smoothly cuts into the saccharine sweetness of the honey, while the rabdi helps us finish on a sugar high. 

Meal for two INR 1,000. Relaunches on July 14.

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